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Tribal translation gets Akademi pat
- Santhali writer Rabindranath Murmu renders Bengali novel in own tongue

Call it found in translation.

If translation is about helping one language become friends with another, Rabindranath Murmu (45) can be proud of being a bridge between Bengali and Santhali.

Murmu, who translated Mahasweta Devi’s Bengali novel Eeter Opor Eet into Santhali as Ita Chetan Re Ita, has won the Sahitya Akademi Translation Award 2012.

Overall, Murmu is the fourth Santhali writer in Jharkhand to win an Akademi accolade. Translator Shubhonath Besra won it in 2011 for recreating Kalidasa’s Meghdootam from Sanskrit to Santhali. Playwright Bhogla Soren won the Sahitya Akademi Main Award (2010), while short story prodigy Pitambar Hansda won Bal Sahitya Puraskar (2011), which he received in August this year.

Murmu will receive the award in February 2013 — Rs 50,000, a memento and a certificate.

The author, also a language activist, sports enthusiast and a former Tata Steel employee, can’t believe he won the prestigious award.

“I did not expect it. But my win will motivate other Santhali writers. I was not allowed to take admission in Santhali MA at Ranchi University in the 1980s, probably as I was deeply involved in the Jharkhand andolan. Authorities thought those who do netagiri can’t be good students. It rankled. This prize is a balm,” Murmu, who is nearing his cherished dream of getting an MA in the language by answering his postgraduate exam from Sidho-Kanhu Murmu University, Dumka, smiles.

He has so far translated three books. The first is Mahasweta Devi’s book.

“I worked on it in 2009 and it was published by Baha Sonali Publishers, Karandih,” he said. The other two are Sachhai Ki Karamaat (Hindi) by Acharya Chatur Singh and Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Boro Didi (Bengali). He is giving finishing touches to his fourth translation, a Bengali work made more famous by Bollywood — Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas.

But Eeter Opor Eet, for the Santhali translation of which he got the award, is close to his heart. “The story is on the tribal struggle during the Jharkhand freedom movement. The plot is set in Kolhan,” he says.

Why does he translate?

“Translation gifts stories from other languages to Santhali readers,” Murmu, project director of Guru Gomke Pandit Raghunath Murmu Academy, which promotes Santhali and Ho with Tribal Cultural Society, in rural schools, said.